West Mich MLN: Gaining Steam After Slow Start

After a slow start dropping their first two games and suffering their first Opening Day shutout of their 19 year existence, the Whitecaps are gaining steam at home. Behind solid hitting in the middle of their lineup and two strong outings from starting pitchers, the ‘Caps end their first week of play with a 3-2 record.

Exciting Home Opening Series

The fans at Fifth Third Ballpark were treated to a pair of thrilling games beginning with a 4-0 shutout over the Bowling Green Hot Rods at the home opener. Second year manager Ernie Young was all smiles after the win.

"The guys really enjoy opening day at home. As a player, I used to be really nervous but now it's all fun for me and I know the players really enjoy it. And getting the shutout, it was just a great home opening day victory."

Keeping the excitement going, last night's fans witnessed a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth off the bat of third baseman Colin Kaline. This came three days after the ‘Caps stormed back from a 4-1 deficit in Dayton to emerge victorious in eleven innings. Timely hitting is already starting to define this team along with helping build character early on.

Mean Green Hitting Machine

Evidently, first baseman Dean Green is not letting off-season wrist surgery affect his stroke at the plate. A New York-Penn League All-Star in 2011, the Oklahoma native exploded out from behind the gates with 10 hits, including a pair of home runs for a .455 batting average after the first week. Batting right behind Green is TigsTown's #22 prospect Aaron Westlake who, through the first five games, is the second of a lethal one-two punch in the middle of the lineup. The manager agrees.

"Green is a big hitter and this organization hasn't seen someone like him in the last few years. The 3-4 combo that we have right now with Green and Westlake is great to have. They really feed off each other out there."

Westlake picked up nine hits in the first week of play for a .350 average with three doubles and four RBI.

Struggles at the Top

While the 3 through 6 hitters have done the bulk of the hitting and producing totaling 30 hits, the top of the lineup has been quiet. Chad Wright and Eugenio Suarez went a combined 2-27 with 10 strikeouts in the opening series against the Dayton Dragons.

Looking to find an answer in the leadoff position, outfielder Jason Krizan assumed leadoff duties from Chad Wright in yesterday's game but went 0-for-3. After five games, the top spot in the lineup has gone a combined 1-for-22.

Starting Pitching Catches On

After a couple of rocky starts to begin the season by Josue Carreno and Thomas Collier, the starters have been able to string together a few strong performances each lasting at least five innings.

Kyle Ryan scattered three runs off of four hits in Dayton while Brennan Smith pitched five scoreless innings and collected the win in the home opener.

"It was a great start by Smith," said Young. "He gave us five solid innings and the bullpen was solid. We were watching his pitch count but were able to stretch five innings out of him. And next time hopefully he'll be able to go six."

Wilsen Palacios rounded out the trio of solid outings last night lasting six innings while only giving up one run.

‘Caps on the Radar

The Whitecaps roster features six of the Tigers' top ten picks from the 2011 draft and a number of top prospects in the Tigers' farm system. This group of players includes the likes of Westlake, shortstop Brandon Loy and outfielder Danry Vasquez.

Moving Forward

The Whitecaps will try for the series sweep against the Hot Rods today and will cap off their seven game homestand with four games against the Lansing Lugnuts. The ‘Caps will then travel to Ohio for a brief three game stint against the Lake County Captains before returning home.

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